Officials with the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said a resident was walking her dog Monday in Veterans Memorial Park on Bay Avenue when the dog noticed something along the water.
That is when Jennifer Vaz noticed a wire cage with a small dog cowering inside. The cage was on a small portion of sand between the bulkhead and the water -- but the tide was coming in and the water had reached the cage.
"When we got closer I heard the whimpering," Vaz said. "When I looked down, I saw these eyes looking back at me -- these cute little puppy eyes all shivered up and scared."
Vaz climbed over the wall and rescued the dog before it was too late.
By the time police were called and Animal Control arrived on the scene, the cage was almost completely covered by the rising tide.
Officials say if it wasn't for the good Samaritan's heroic rescue, the 10-month-old pit bull likely would have drowned.
"High tide would have been at 10:30, and this crate to house this small dog was probably two and a half feet off the ground," Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni said. "The water was rising through the crate and just in a matter of less than an hour, River wouldn't have made it if it weren't for Jennifer coming to take him out of the crate, saving his life."
Vaz named the pup River. She took him home and got in touch with the SPCA where doctors have been taking care of him.
Based on the tide, it is estimated the dog was abandoned between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. Investigators are working to track down the person who would abandon the sweet, loving dog. If proven to be intentional, that person could face 3 to 5 years in prison.
"I couldn't believe that this happened in our town and somebody could be this malicious and do that to that dog," Vaz said.
Vaz says she will foster River and also hopes to adopt him.
Anyone who has any information or may have witnessed anything is asked to call the MCPO Animal Cruelty Hot Line 877-898-7297 or notify the Highlands Police Department at 732-872-1224.